A/U: Okay, folks! This is my first Numb3rs ficcy to be completed, so please be nice. I'm sorry about the title, but I couldn't think of anything else. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know! I came up with the idea for this story while listening to MatchBox 20's 'Bent', it's a good song, and I tend to get story idea while listening to music, heh. I would also like to give a very big thanks to ShadowGraffiti! She really helped me with a few ideas for this, and helped me lengthen it a bit as well. Thanks Shadow!
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of Numb3rs, nor do I own any rights what so ever to the show.
Charlie was sitting at his chair inside his office, just packing up for the night, when his cell phone rang. He dug it out of his pocket and glanced at the number. Smiling, he hit 'Send' and brought it up to his ear.
"Hey, what's up?"
"Hey Charlie! I hope I didn't catch you at a bad time, but I was wondering if you and dad have had dinner yet." Don, Charlie's older brother, was the other voice on the line.
"You actually caught me at a good time. I'm just about to leave the office. And no, we haven't had dinner yet, or, at least I haven't. I'll tell dad your coming, then?" Charlie asked, standing up from his desk with an armload of papers.
"Yeah, thanks, Charlie." Don paused, "And Charlie?"
"Yeah?" Charlie could tell Don was hesitating. His older brother was worried about his latest case, no doubt. It must be something he considered important, but Charlie could also tell Don was having some difficulty getting it out.
"Charlie...the case I've been working on today, it involves a crook who was last seen near CalSci. His last hit was about two blocks away."
"And you want me to be careful, right?" Charlie cut in, and from the silence on the other end, Charlie knew he had been right. "Don, it's not all that uncommon for criminals to be hanging around campus. I know to be careful, okay?" Charlie could hear Don sigh.
"I know, I just, I don't want anything to happen." Don slowly began to explain, but both brothers knew nothing more had to be said. They had gone over this many times.
Why does Don always have to treat me like a kid? I don't really mind his concern, but I can watch out for myself. Charlie thought, and decided it was about time to end the phone conversation.
"Sure. Don't worry, Don, I'll be careful. So, I'll tell dad you'll be at dinner, right?"
"Right. See you soon, Charlie."
"See you, Don." After saying their good-byes, the brothers hung up. Charlie dropped his phone back into his pocket, locked his office, and made the trek down the hall and to the exit of the building, armload of papers still with him.
As Charlie walked, he had Don's words of warning on his mind. He wouldn't admit, however, that he was a bit worried that Don could be right. But, then again, it was in Don's nature to bring up stuff like that. Both Charlie's older brother and his dad believed that Charlie was too much of an 'absent minded professor' to keep watch of the things around him, and they always felt they had to alert him to any dangers, however remote the possibilities of that danger harming him. It got kind of unnerving sometimes, but Charlie had to admit, sometimes he could be quite 'absent minded' while thinking over his numbers. But of course his numbers were, for him, more than just a hobby and more than just a job. They were his life. That was one thing not many understood...
At that moment, Charlie noticed a figure in the shadows. He was outdoors now, on the path just outside the buildings that run along the campus. For some reason seeing the figure made him wonder why he had parked his bike so far away earlier in the day. Perhaps he had thought the walk would be enjoyable, but now, seeing this figure hidden by the shadows, he greatly wished that he had reconsidered parking his bike so far away.
Stopping this train of thought, Charlie turned away from the shadow and continued along the path. Stop it, Charlie. You're acting like a child. It is most probable that a student just decided to stay out late. What are the chances that a criminal would choose this place to set up watch, and then, out of all the people in the school, choose you to go after? It's like the lottery. It just...it would be most improbable. Highly unlikely.
About ten steps on the path, he could hear footsteps behind him, definitely not his own or ones he immediately recognized. Charlie gulped, but forced himself to keep going. Don't look behind you. You don't need to. It is just a student, after all...right? … Of course it is. No need to be irrational... he told himself, but his curiosity was asking him to turn and look. I shouldn't...but...I have to know.
Because it was dark, he waited until he was by a lamppost, then threw a glance over his shoulder. Charlie noted the figure behind him wore a long coat, the hood dawn over the face therefore hiding it in shadow, and the person had his or her hands buried in their pockets. Charlie turned back around, trying to slow his heart rate a little. Logical thinking told him his fear was most likely unfounded, but his gut told him to run. He could see his bike now; it was where he had left it this morning, chained to the bike rail.
Charlie wanted to dive for his bike, but his mind told him to be more professional about this. Really now, the odds of some sort of a robber stalking him at this time, this area, this place...it wasn't completely impossible, but it was still irrational to think such a thing.
Instead of dwelling on the illogical factors of his fear, he thought of this evening's plans, which made him calm down a bit. The night air whipping through his hair and over his face would clear his thoughts, fill him with joy and anticipation, distracting his mind from this silly fear. When he got home, if he decided to tell dad and Don about it, they would probably both laugh at such thoughts. They would tell him he was too uptight. Don would make some comment about Charlie being too serious with the numbers that only Charlie himself could understand, to which dad would silently agree but never actually say anything to that effect. Then all three Eppes men would share a smile, take a drink, then dig into the food the oldest Eppes man had prepared.
As Charlie knelt to release the bike from its chain, he shifted the papers in his arms so he could unlock his bike, and then his mind began to drift. He wondered what his father would be making for dinner. Perhaps turkey, with some veggies as a side dish. Or maybe fish of some sort. That sounded good. Or maybe dad would make some pasta, or...
Charlie's mind abruptly screamed to a halt. There was a cold barrel pressing between his shoulder blades, causing him to completely lose the previous calm he had been feeling. Now, his heart jumped to his throat and his blood ran cold. The fear returned, but now, it was multiplied by about ten times.
"If you know what's good for you, mister, then you'd better not move." A cool, almost teasing voice rang out from somewhere behind him. Charlie heard the voice, understanding what it wanted him to do, but he felt it was wrong to comply.
'But if you don't, you might get shot.' A voice inside him said. That, he agreed with. However, he had another idea.
Slowly, Charlie gripped the chain in both hands, his eyes trained solely on it. If only he could get it off...he might still have a chance. His breathing became ragged, his focus on the chain alone, several possibilities of how he could use it running through his mind. Trying to slow his thoughts enough to catch up with his hands, he now had the chain ready, and with just one yank he could whip around and hit the guy with it.
But the crook had seen. Charlie felt a sudden, sharp pain as the gun connected with the side of his head, causing a loud cry of agony to escape his lips.
"You try anything with that chain and you will be sporting a bullet in your back." The crook told him. Charlie winced, the feeling of defeat rising in him like the taste of bile. The robber then continued, "On your feet. You had better not try anything like that again." The crook gestured with his gun, impatient for Charlie to stand.
Well, that plan sure worked nice. Charlie thought sullenly, forcing his hands to let the chain go quietly. In slow, careful motions, he turned to stand up. The crook snorted and made a move to whack Charlie with the gun again, so Charlie quickly stood. He really didn't want to feel like a crouched mouse compared to this crook.
"Wha-what do you want?" Charlie demanded, though it sounded more like a plea. His voice was much too shaky to sound demanding at the moment, and for that he felt like kicking himself. Standing or not, he still felt like a crouched mouse.
Don't show this guy your fear. Don't show him even a hint...don't show your fear, Charlie. Charlie told himself, drawing up to his full height. The crook, however, still had him by a foot.
"Well, for starters, I'd like all the money you have on ya." The man now standing in front of Charlie stated, gun still pointed at the frightened mathematician. Charlie didn't know if actually seeing the gun made him feel better or worse, but it did make him put his hands in the air, effectively dropping the papers he had been carrying. He didn't even bother glance down at them. His eyes were fixed on the gun.
"I - I don't have much on me. I swear - my wallet is almost empty." Charlie tried, but it didn't seem to dissuade this robber at all.
"What ever little you have on your person will do fine." The robber responded, gun still raised evenly at Charlie. Charlie still paused, not wanting to give into this crook's wishes, but if he didn't, he knew it might cost him his life. But then, images went flashing through his mind... Don, his dad, Amita, Larry...
He wanted to live. He wanted to see them again. He had to see them again. This wasn't... this couldn't be the end!Charlie wanted to move, comply with his request no matter how humiliating it may currently seem. Humiliation was better than a lost life, this Charlie knew for sure. But Charlie couldn't move. His hands were frozen up in the air, his breath came out in shabby gasps. His whole body was frozen with fear. For the first time in his life, he couldn't even process a single thought. He couldn't think, he didn't know what to do! But, what could he do? Oh, how he wished Don were here right now... Don would know what to do. He always knew what to do.
Don wouldn't have given in to any of this creep's requests. He would have stood up to the crook, would have make the crook listen to him instead of the other way around. Don's a FBI agent, there was no way he would give into someone like that. But...what can I do? I'm not Don, and I'm not a FBI agent. I'm a...math professor.
"Hand it over now, mister. Or else I'll have to shoot you and take it off your dead body. We wouldn't want that, now, would we?" The hooded man threatened in a sickening singsong voice that Charlie was sure he wasn't going to forget for a long while to come. If he survived this, that is.
In his mind's eye, images once again began to flash before him. Images, memories, of him and Don when they were kids, playing together...of their mother comforting him when more bullies at school made fun of him for his age...of his dad telling him they had another tutor for him to meet...of Don and himself, fighting over something that had seemed so important to them at that time...of his first class with Larry, then various images of the two of them, drawing closer, no longer as student and teacher, but as best friends...of the first day he saw Amita in his class, and when he found out he was to be Amita's Thesis advisor...of the day his world came crashing down, when he found out his mother would no longer be able to comfort him, of how he missed her touch even to this day...
A swift rap over Charlie's head with the metal gun brought him out of the past and back to the cold truth that lay before of him. The crook's blow caused Charlie to sway off balance; Charlie didn't even try to steady himself. He fell to the ground in a heap, wincing only slightly when his head hit. His eyes glazed over, knowing this was it. He watched the crook tilt his head to the side and take aim... Charlie's stomach swelled with fear, an icy grip taking a strong hold over his entire body. His heart residing in his throat, his lungs just about refused to take in air; this was it, and he knew it.
"You've wasted enough time, I'm done waiting. Your time is up." Said the crook in a very menacing drawl.
Charlie shut his eyes, jaw set tight, and waited for the pain of the bullet to hit his skin. Waiting to hear it...the last thing he would ever hear... He would miss so much...there was so much he had still wanted to do, but, he would never get to... He would never have the chance to tell his father, his brother, how much he loved them, how much he meant to them... And Larry...Amita...his best friends... He would never see them again...never tell them how much they meant to him. He would never get the chance now... it was too late. His time was up.
A gunshot rang through the night air, causing a few birds nesting nearby to scatter and fly away. Charlie sucked in a breath, thinking this was the end for him. It was all over...
Charlie's mind raced. Where...where was the pain?
A voice...a voice he knew. Slowly, he opened one eye...that voice, so familiar.. Lying in front of him, he could see his would-be killer, moaning in pain. He looked up and saw a familiar figure running toward him...the voice belonged to that figure, he knew, but who was it...?
"Charlie! Charlie, say something, anything! Please!"
Oh, yes...it was his brother, Don. How could he forget?
Don's gun was still drawn. Don must have shot this crook...that was why Charlie didn't feel the pain. Don had come; he had saved Charlie...
Charlie wanted to respond to his brother, but he couldn't. The mathematician was happy...he was so relieved, that his brother was here, his brother had prevented this crook from taking Charlie's life away. It felt like someone had just turned on the sprinklers on a very humid summer day.
"Charlie... Charlie, please say something...Charlie?" Don asked, very worried. He knew that look on his little brother's face. Don ran full out, as fast as his legs could carry him to his brother's side. He slipped his gun back in its holster, then fell to his knees beside his brother and checked Charlie for any wounds.
Charlie still said nothing...just gave Don one of his goofy smiles.
"I thought...I thought you might want a ride home." Don choked out, pulling his little brother into his arms, satisfied that he was, at least physically okay.
This...it had almost happened once before. A sniper had taken aim at Charlie from a window, but, thanks to David, the bullet had missed Charlie. Then, too, he had come dangerously close to a life without Charlie, his little brother. His dad would never have forgiven him, nor would he have ever forgiven himself.
That, too, was now in the past. Charlie was here, with him, living, breathing. Charlie was here, and that was all that mattered. Sure, sometimes, the brothers had arguments and even Don would get so mad so as to yell at Charlie. Right now, Don was sorry for every time in their childhood when he raised his voice to his brother, or when he dismissed or even disowned Charlie. He would never think of that now.
When he had walked up to the school, he never expected to see his brother lying on the floor, a shadowy looking person poised over him with a gun pointed right at Charlie's heart. Don's own heart almost failed to beat at the sight. Don had only wasted a second to get his gun out and fire. If he had waited any longer...if had chosen not to come at all...
Don didn't want to think about that. All that mattered right now was that Charlie was here with him, Charlie was alive. His little brother was alive.
But Charlie's eyes...they were still glazed over. Don suddenly realized just how frightened Charlie must've been when this crook had captured him in such a way. He needed to distract Charlie from thinking over the event anymore than was needed. And, in Don's eyes, no more was needed.
"So...what did dad say about dinner?" Don asked, softly. It seemed to be enough to bring Charlie back to reality.
"I...I haven't told him yet...I didn't...didn't get a chance. I'm sorry..." Charlie whispered, tears welling up in his eyes. Don laughed softly.
"It's okay, buddy. I'm sure he made enough. What do you say to going home now?"
"No...that's not... I mean, I'm... I'm sorry I let him get to me, Donny. I wasn't...you were right..." Charlie softly admitted, slowly turning his gaze away from his elder brother. In that moment, Don realized Charlie wasn't talking about dad. Charlie was apologizing about the crook.
"Charlie..." Don had to pause, for a few tears were now slipping down his face. "Charlie, it wasn't your fault. You had no idea the crook would be out here, you just, you, you did what you do everyday. And that's okay."
"But... You-you warned me...didn't listen..." Charlie mumbled, sounding hurt. Don pulled back a little and made Charlie look him in the eye.
"Charlie. This was not your fault. I don't think...I'm not sure if it would have really made a difference." Don said softly. Charlie sighed, but finally nodded.
"Don't tell dad?" Charlie's voice, small but getting stronger, was heard. Don smirked.
"What do you think? Knowing his youngest son was almost shot twice? Yeah, I think this one is going under wraps. No one was hurt." Charlie returned Don's smile, then both brothers stood up. Don still had to support Charlie a little, as it was still quite a shock. Then Don thought of something.
"Charlie, what about your bike?"
"I-uh-I'll get it in the morning." Charlie said, clearing his throat. Charlie didn't really want to go back over there now...he'd much rather ride home with Don.
"Okay." A moment later, after the brothers were in the car, Don radioed some of fellow FBI agents, telling them, "CalSci needs a little cleaning, near the math building. Oh, and bring a body bag."
How was it? Good? Bad? Please let me know in a review! Thanks for reading!